News and Reviews
Three Local Artists Celebrate CD Releases
We see plenty of nationally released albums reviewed, but here are some recent offerings from our home front. You can find these artists in local clubs most weekends, for little or no cover.
"Devil in the Rhythm'' by Delta Generators (Delta Generators Music, www.myspace.com/deltagenerators)
The quartet that won this spring’s Battle of the Boston Blues Bands includes Plymouth brothers Charles O’Neal (guitar) and Rick O’Neal (bass), along with Kingston drummer Jeff Armstrong and Worcester vocalist Craig Rawding. Their debut album finds them paying tribute to traditional Chicago-style blues with nine original numbers, performed with obvious elan. It’s immediately obvious why they stand out among regional blues acts. The rhythm section is perfectly in the pocket at every turn, and Charlie O’Neal’s slide guitar work is first class. The opening blues-rock thump of ``Hand Me Down Blues'' introduces Rawding’s rough-edged voice, and Charlie O’Neal’s slide guitar work instantly leaps off the record. "That Evil'' is an homage to Hound Dog Taylor and the rapid-paced shuffle with more fiery slide is an apt tribute, although later in the song a wah-wah effect on the guitar, and Armstrong playing what sounds like kettle drums, give it a modern twist. The Delta Generators will be headlining a CD release party Nov. 2 at Club 58 in Quincy, and the event will double as a Boston Blues Society fundraiser, to help send the band to the national blues band competition in Memphis this winter.
"Ol’ Schoolin’'' by The Mighty Houserockers (self-released, 781-258-5232)
The debut CD from the busy South Shore group led by Braintree’s Bob `"Satch'' Romano, Weymouth guitarist "Slick Jim'' Murray and Quincy saxophonist Bruce McGrath features mostly blues classic covers. The musicianship and arrangements are solid, and even throw in some new angles, and the vocals are heartfelt, if not especially distinctive. The easy-swinging instrumental "Chickenshack Tilt-a-Whirl'' offers impressive harmonica work from Romano, and plenty of energy from the band, but a sax solo from either McGrath or Andrew Hickman sounds as if he’s in another room. We’re guessing this CD was recorded old-style, with all the musicians in one room and no overdubs. That makes for a nice, warm band sound, but in several places the sax or Murray’s guitar solos are just not prominent enough. Murray and Romano split the vocal duty on the other six tunes, and both are workmanlike baritones. The arrangement on `"Sugar Coated Love'' makes it one of the disc’s best, with the horns and harmonica working in good contrast, and Murray’s guitar embellishing the melody. "Let Me Love You Baby'' also uses the entire band sound to good effect, and "Teenie Weenie Bit'' is an especially good horn arrangement. Romano’s vocals on "Help Me'' and "Checkin’ On My Baby'' are OK, but they have a sort of vibrato at the end of some lines, and while it works once or twice, using it too much becomes gimmicky. Wisely, Romano doesn’t try to copy Muddy Waters’ leering swagger in ``Hootchie Kootchie Man,'' singing it more like a winking nod to the master, over the typically rollicking band arrangement – again, Murray’s guitar needs to be higher in the mix. But this 36:30 disc offers enough potential to draw fans to the numerous Houserockers gigs. The Mighty Houserockers play the C-Note in Hull on Nov. 7.
"Leaking'' by Joe Fitz and the Dented Cans (JFITZDOME@aol.com)
Many times music can be compelling not because of its technical perfection or stylistic innovation, but simply because the songwriter deals with familiar themes in a fresh new way. Former Quincy resident Joe Fitzgerald is such a tunesmith, and veterans of the old Yard Rock Blues Jam at the now-defunct Holy Ground, and the current Wednesday blues jam at Clash of the Ash in Quincy, can attest to the way Fitzgerald’s skewed torch song "Stella'' became a weekly crowd favorite. Fitzgerald deals in variations of basic blues and rock, but brings a witty, self-deprecatory, and frequently outrageous sensibility to the contemporary tales he spins. Vocally, he’ll never be mistaken for Frank Sinatra; Howlin’ Wolf’s world-weary growl or Tom Waits on a good night might be more apt comparisons. He’s influenced a lot by Paul Butterfield’s rock ’n’ blues style and Elvin Bishop’s tongue-in-cheek storytelling. This 67-minute CD is a preliminary version of the forthcoming Dented Cans debut, and the local group is being helped in the studio by Hull’s Doug Bell of Bellevue Cadillac. Other members include guitarist Pete Comerford, bassist John Bunszell of Milton, trumpeter John Moriconi and saxman Bruce McGrath of Quincy.
The album is an impressive 14 cuts, spanning quite a range of styles and subjects. The classic style blooze (rock-inflected blues) of "Can’t Drink Like I Used To'' brings some nasty slide guitar to the fore. A typical Fitzgerald blues lament is "She Loves the Dog (More than She Does Me),'' where his desperate howl rides a dramatically exaggerated thumping rhythm. Perhaps Fitzgerald’s signature song is "Triple Deckers and Beer,'' and it’s one of his best, a boogie-woogie guitar romp, as much ’50s rock as blues. In it, he admits that he’ll never be the kind of guy you can "clean up and take to town,'' while vowing that ``I’ll be there beside you until the bitter end.'' The Dented Cans CD will be out later this fall, but in the meantime they are playing at a benefit at the Needham VFW on Saturday, and hosting the blues jam at Paddy O’s in Boston on Tuesday. The Dented Cans are also playing an election night victory party at Clash of the Ash in Quincy on Nov. 4.